Would you like to spend less time exercising, more time enjoying your life, yet still keep your heart strong and able to fend off heart attacks? Sure you would. As a cardiologist with many over-50 age patients, I advise them to engage in regular aerobic activity to keep their heart strong. When I tell them that there’s a specific type of aerobic exercise that can strengthen their heart more while actually spending less time exercising, they can’t believe it. But, it’s true and I’d like to share with you what you need to know about this exercise…
The Best Exercise for Over-50 Hearts
Given your choice of a to-do list on a nice, sunny summer day, I’m sure aerobic exercise is probably at the low end of your list. Like many people, you may view the 30-40-minutes- a-day, 4-5 times a week traditional aerobic exercise prescription as a necessary drudgery.
What if I told you that you could spend about 10-12 minutes total, 2-3 times a week, doing one specific type of exercise that would boost your heart strength 3-4 times more than regular, plodding-along aerobic exercise? I’d be willing to bet that aerobic exercise might just move to the top of your list. It’s all about doing aerobic exercise in short bursts of high intensity intervals. Here’s how…
Strengthen Your Heart, Improve General Health with Cardio Intervals
Although there has always been a controversy amongst doctors, exercise specialists, and research scientists about how much aerobic exercise you really need to stay healthy, lately we’ve all been more on the same page about the new findings on cardio interval exercise. Here’s why:
- Strengthens the heart 2-3 times more, faster
- Burns more fat – especially belly fat.
- Lowers hemoglobin A1c (a marker for diabetes) and insulin levels faster than regular aerobic exercise – why it helps burn more belly fat.
- Lowers blood pressure. Exercising faster, more intensely, causes you to produce more nitric oxide which relaxes blood vessel walls and allows blood pressure to lower.
- Recent research out of Norway revealed that people with chronic heart failure boosted their VO2 Max, a marker for cardiovascular function, by an amazing 46%.
Basic cardio intervals are done in short bursts of high intensity exercise for 10-30 seconds to start and building to 1-2 minutes, for a total workout time of about 10-12 minutes 2-3 times a week.
Here’s how to get started doing cardio intervals. I would like you to check with your doctor before beginning cardio intervals especially if you have a pacemaker or other previously diagnosed heart condition that the accelerated heart rate may affect. If you belong to a gym, you might want to ask a trainer to help you the first time or so but it’s a pretty simple formula.
1. Choose your exercise: Choose whichever method of aerobics you’d like – walking, bicycling, running, jumping rope, stair climber, swimming, jumping jacks, elliptical, rebounding, fast dancing even. When you’re comfortable with the interval concept, you can apply it to any form of aerobic exercise.
2. Warm-up: Be sure to stretch completely then do your regular level of aerobic activity for 2 minutes. Keep a bottle of water to sip on during your intervals.
3. Choose your interval: If you’re just starting to exercise, you will want to start out slowly with intervals. Start with 10 second bursts of faster paced exercise then rest 3 minutes, repeat, for a block of about 4 intervals. Do this 2-3 times a week for 1 week, then build to 15 second intervals for 1 week, then 30 seconds x 1 week, then 60 seconds (1 minute) x 1 week, then 2 minutes x 1 week. It’s okay to stay at one level longer if you need to until you’re able to increase your capacity. If you’ve been doing regular, 30-40 minute sessions of aerobics for a while, you can move into more intense levels of intervals/shorter rest periods to start. A word about “rest” periods: These are not complete stops, just slowing way down, so that your heart rate comes down for a while, then you’ll push it back up during the next fast-paced interval.
4. Find your best heart rate: You should never be uncomfortably short of breath, gasping/panting for air, nauseated, feeling chest pain, or deeply red-faced, but a little winded is normal. You’re increasing both your lung and heart capacity for stress – that’s the point of interval training. Think of it as revving your car’s engine by stepping on the gas a few times. Your heart rate during faster-paced intervals should be 85% of your maximum heart rate, followed by a 65% drop during resting periods.
To find your maximum heart rate (MHR), multiply your age by 88%, move the decimal point 2 places to the left and round off to next lowest whole number. For example, 55 years old x 88 = 4840 = 48. Then subtract 48 from 206, which gives you 158, the heart rate number you should achieve during the fast interval for your age. The rest period heart rate should be 65% lower (158 x 65 = 10270, or 102). So you would be alternating between 158 and 102 heart rates.
It may add some fun to do interval training with a friend or significant other. Each of you can time each other’s intervals, or have “relays” with each other. Remember, your weekly sessions, however, do not have to be more than 10-12 minutes at a time, 3 times a week. Also, adding intervals to your exercise regimen doesn’t mean giving up on lighter, “strolling” walking or “sight-seeing” enjoyment level bicycling, leisurely swimming, dancing, etc, as research has shown that even lighter intensity exercise helps reduce inflammation in blood vessels and lowers blood sugar levels. Just be sure to keep your heart rate in the 1-teens to 120.
Ron Blankstein, M.D.
Natural Health News
Give Your Heart A Workout, http://www.prevention.com/fitness/fitness-tips/best-exercise-your-heart
The Best Workout for Your Heart, http://news.menshealth.com/best-workout-for-your-heart/2012/10/15/